Letter to the editors

Editor’s Note: The Campus has corrected the time of the criminal mischief and public drunkenness as stated below.

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to the article, “Public safety incident escalates, local police get involved,” that describes an incident that occurred on Sept. 18, 2020, when students called Public Safety due to a safety concern at their house.

While the College cannot share specific details of a student’s private educational record, I can share some information with the community about how Public Safety handles these types of situations in general.

Public Safety officers are trained in de-escalation strategies and the officers are expected to make every possible effort to avoid the use of physical force in any interaction. The officers are trained to approach a situation by identifying themselves and explaining the reason the officer is present.

Officers attempt several strategies to de-escalate situations by talking with individuals, referring students to support resources including the Dean on Call or counselors, offering assistance and using verbal instructions.

Our Public Safety officers use physical engagement as a last resort and only when there are imminent safety risks. Public Safety does not carry other alternative devices such as guns, pepper spray, batons or tasers.

Despite these strategies, there are rare times when an individual is behaving in a manner that is unsafe to the individual or to others in the area.

The only time an officer will engage physically with a community member is when the safety of the individual, the officer or others in the vicinity are at imminent risk. If it appears that a person is going to engage in a physical altercation, Meadville City Police Department is notified.

The article mistakenly reports the criminal mischief as occurring 15 minutes after the Loomis Street incident.  The Crime Log indicates a criminal mischief was reported earlier at College Court at 12:10 a.m. and an incident of disorderly conduct and public drunkenness on Loomis Street at 12:25 a.m.

The criminal mischief clearly occurred prior to the Loomis Street incident.  This chronological error may be misleading to the reader.

This incident is an important reminder to all in our community that the national dialogue about use of force, racial injustice, and the role of police impacts all of us.

Allegheny has a critical role to play in addressing policies and practices that contribute to systemic oppression. Public Safety has an ongoing responsibility to stay informed, understand the needs of the student community and make every effort to disrupt patterns that contribute to racial injustice.

We must be sure that any officer who uses physical restraint does so as a last resort and does so with an understanding of the local and national landscape that may be impacting our community.

It is not enough to simply do our jobs at Allegheny, we must go further to understand the experiences of members of this community and develop responses that are measured and respectful of the diverse experiences of all of the members of our community.

Jim Basinger, our new Director of Public Safety has committed to this effort by doing a review of the office structure, updating protocols, implementing trainings and engaging with students and employees to develop strategies to improve the relationship between Public Safety and the community.

Jim will be requesting meetings with students and student groups to collaborate on how Public Safety can work to improve campus safety, support our diverse student and employee population and develop strategies to improve trust.   

I am hopeful that this additional information provides some reassurance to the campus community that Public Safety is working to provide a safe and supportive environment for all members of our community and their guests.

Please contact Student Life at [email protected] if you would like to talk further about ways we can better support the Allegheny community.

April Thompson is the Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students at Allegheny College.